catachresis n : strained or paradoxical use of words either in error (as `blatant' to mean `flagrant') or deliberately (as in a mixed metaphor: `blind mouths')
EtymologyFrom catachresis, from , from ‘to misuse’, from + ‘to use’.
applying a term to something which it should not properly desribe
- Norwegian: katakrese
Catachresis (from Greek ), which literally means the incorrect or improper use of a word -- such as using the word decimate (e.g., "they were severely decimated") mistakenly for devastated -- is a term used to denote the (usually intentional) use of any figure of speech that flagrantly violates the norms of a language community. Compare malapropism.
Common forms of catachresis are:
- Using a word to denote something radically different from its normal meaning.
- Using a word to denote something for which, without the catachresis, there is no actual name.
- "a table's leg"
- Using a word out of context.
- 'Can't you hear that? Are you blind?'
- "To take arms against a sea of troubles..." – Shakespeare, Hamlet
- Arguably, however, this is perhaps neither a catachresis nor a mixed metaphor. In context, Hamlet is pondering futility: faced with a sea of troubles, taking up a sword and shield is not going to have an effect on the oncoming wave. In this sense, the quotation is a straightforward metaphor, albeit interpretable as a catachresis.
Catachresis is often used to convey extreme emotion or alienation, and is prominent in baroque literature and, more recently, in the avant-garde.
- Greek Grammar
catachresis in German: Katachrese
catachresis in Spanish: Catacresis
catachresis in French: Catachrèse
catachresis in Italian: Catacresi
catachresis in Dutch: Catachrese
catachresis in Norwegian: Katakrese
catachresis in Portuguese: Catacrese
catachresis in Russian: Катахреза
catachresis in Swedish: Katakres